The other day I spent my afternoon with my knees digging into our hardwood floors as I tried to follow the complicated plot that my four-year old had concocted for his various LEGO sets. Much to his dismay, I was unable to keep up or have my LEGO people say the correct things. That is because this soap opera-worthy plot was known only to him.
I checked my watch after a firm reprimand of “No, THAT’S the bad guy” and I realized we had only been playing for one minute and 45 seconds. I could have sworn at least three hours passed for the tediousness I was made to endure. I sighed deeply and tried to summon a Daniel Day Lewis-like passion for my current role as “bad guy that takes the jewel from the jungle but in actuality ends up getting to keep it because the alligator is a nice one”.
In that moment, I had a terrible mom thought: I don’t like to play with my kids. This is a huge blanket statement and not at all true. I enjoy reading books with my children and will always say yes when they ask for another so long as it’s not past their bedtime and they’re playing upon my love of literature to delay going to sleep. I love sitting down to color and do crafts that last longer than the time it took to set them up. I delight in chasing them around the house as I bellow “Fee Fi Fo Fum! Mommy’s coming so you better RUN!” At least the first 3-5 times before I start to run out of breath. I don’t mind helping build tall towers, dramatically yelling “NOOOO” as they’re knocked down, or lending a helping hand with a puzzle. When the weather is nice, there’s a multitude of outdoor activities I enjoy doing with them. Once they’re older, I look forward to playing nerdy board games as a family.
However, there is a limit to what I consider to be fun. Well, fun for me anyway. I put on a good show for about five minutes but then I am over it. The games my kids want me to play either require me to move around a lot, usually on the floor, or make absolutely no sense to me. Engaging in their pretend play means I usually sit there stupidly doing the wrong thing or serving zero purpose whatsoever as the action goes on around me causing me to wonder why I couldn’t be in the kitchen unloading the dishwasher. Not to mention, and I’m sure I’ll take some heat on this, playing with your kids can be downright boring at times. Like, so boring.
As a stay-at-home mom I constantly struggle with how much I should be playing with my kids. The amount of time I have with my children is both a luxury and a burden (at times anyway). What amount of play is right? I understand how important it is for them to learn how to entertain themselves and realize that being their #1 play-mate all the time is not a healthy thing. But what is a fair amount? An amount where they feel like they have a present, loving mother that is also fun and silly? God knows I don’t want anything coming out in therapy later in life “I think it all goes back to the fact that my mother never played with me…”
There was a glorious period of time where the two kids would actually play together. Isn’t this the reason I pushed two watermelons out of my hoo-ha in the first place? It was adorable and more importantly, allowed me to actually accomplish things from time to time. Now the two of them playing together is the exception, not the norm. And I fear that it may be this way forever. As much as I love LEGOs, I totally blame them for AJR’s lack of interest in his pesky little sister. While he is usually occupied with building, Olivia seems a little lost with what to do, which I don’t quite understand as our playroom looks like pop-up Toys R Us shop. She’s also at this awkward stage where playing with her is almost impossible. Parallel play is the name of the game so I’ll sit patiently during one of her “circle times” and oblige her when she demands I hold no less than five stuffed animals. Other than making sure her bear doesn’t tip over, I am of no consequence to her, but God forbid I try to leave.
It is a process – training them to play independently – one that I’m constantly working on with them. Then here comes Dad on the weekends all fresh and full of patience and a desire to play and totally sandbags me for the rest of the week. All he wants to do is play with them! No matter what the game. I rarely ever hear him say “When I finish making lunch” or “Five more minutes” or “Want to watch a show instead?” He’s the fun parent and I have actually said to him “You’ve got to stop playing with them so much!” It’s heart-meltingly cute, but absolutely cramping my style.
Before you tell me that one day they won’t want to play with me, know that I love my kids and I am constantly up in their business in many other ways.I can’t engage in any sort of housework (or go to the bathroom) for longer than two minutes before someone is yelling “MOMMY”.. I sit with them for every meal. Mostly because I have to make sure that they actually eat their food, but sometimes we have conversation other than for the love of God eat the chicken nugget. If they are coloring by themselves or building LEGOs, I’ll ask them questions or comment on their work. I am with them 24/7, something that I am beyond grateful for, even if it’s partly why I’m half-crazed 99% of the time. I’m just here, as a keeping-it-real-mom, to say that sometimes playing with your kids is reaaalllyyyy boring. I am here to keep them alive, raise them to be good people, and make sure they know how loved they are. I am not here to ensure that they are constantly entertained. In the end, I think that this sums up my feelings about playing with my kids #preach: